A Tunisian bill set to criminalise offences against “sacred values” was filed in parliament by ruling Islamist party Ennahda, and threatens freedom of expression according to a statement by Human Rights Watch on Friday.
“The draft bill would provide prison terms and fines for broadly worded offenses such as insulting or mocking the ‘sanctity of religion’,” the rights group said.
The bill would purportedly cover subjects sacred in the three Abrahamic religions, including God, the Prophet Muhammad, earlier prophets, holy books, mosques, churches and synagogues. Those convicted of violating the law would face up to two years imprisonment, increasing to four years for repeat offenders.
“If passed, this draft law would introduce a new form of censorship in a country that suffered from so much censorship under the ousted president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali,” HRW deputy regional director Eric Goldstein said.
The bill has not yet come up for debate but it is anticipated to spark heated discussion as it has already stirred up significant national and international controversy.